The ability of robots to replace humans has been the talk of the town since decades and has even inspired several works of fiction. However, even in an era where disciplines like Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to permeate and influence our routines, utilization of robotics still seems to be a far-fetched thought for many. However, for French-based Mexence, ‘robots’ are a reality. Under the leadership of Ludovic Desgrées, an industry veteran and the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Mexence has been significantly successful in transporting these automated machines out of the confines of R&D labs to the hands of the not so tech-savvy individuals. Within a few years since its inception, Mexence—an application technology firm—has successfully amalgamated robotics and AI to enhance productivity and work environments across myriad sectors. The company’s name has been derived from the phrase ‘robotics that makes sense’, which has been the driving force for its talented resource pool to devise solutions aimed at solving traditional challenges.
Mexence designs robots that are tailored to precisely address the needs of its clientele. “As a team, we often used to ponder how we could make a difference in the society by effectively utilizing robotics technology; this vision steered us ahead on the path of innovation,” mentions Desgrées. As an alumnus of HEC Paris, Desgrées has essayed several key roles in his illustrious career before associating with Mexence. Under his leadership, the organisation has accomplished several milestones within a short span of four years.
The Paint Robot
Until a few years ago, one could not even think of robots painting a building, but Mexence has successfully materialized this revolutionary idea. The company’s paint robot—pBot—is one of its noteworthy accomplishments which differentiate it from several industry peers. The cutting-edge product is currently utilized by several firms and has significantly amplified the efficiency in painting, which is the last leg of the construction process.
Any invention is spurred by the need to mitigate a traditional challenge, and Desgrées attributes the conception of pBot to a conversation with a construction business mogul he was acquainted with. During their discussion, the client revealed how dependencies on humans had delayed the delivery of various construction projects, causing inconvenience to his customers. His concerns clearly pointed toward a void that hadn’t been filled in years by most robotic solution providers. That is when the idea of developing a paint robot struck Desgrées. Upon receiving a tremendous response from the construction mogul for the idea, he decided to bring it to life.
In a span of three years, Mexence devised the pBot to eliminate the need of employing humans to paint dwellings, a first of its kind invention in over four decades of R&D in the robotics sector. “Many of our clients from the construction space requested a solution that could accomplish painting in a brief time span, sometimes even within 24 hours.
During each deployment journey, spanning from ideation to delivery, Mexence adheres to its philosophy of ‘robotics that makes sense
We have been consistently successful in meeting such expectations of customers so far,” mentions Desgrées.
Apart from executing tasks within a short time frame, these pBots are adept at reaching rooftops and areas that are generally inaccessible or inconvenient for humans. Appended to these robots is an accessory called paintbox, which enables the completion of tasks autonomously. These machines can even identify rooms and manoeuvre around spaces without any support. The most significant advantage of employing pBots is their ability to work round-the-clock, unlike the eight-hour day restriction associated with employing human workforce for painting.
Automated Production Line Assistants
Mexence has been instrumental in amplifying the capabilities of production lines that utilize aluminium, in addition to addressing the needs of the construction industry. Production line workers have always been highly vulnerable to health hazards due to continual exposure to hot aluminium utilized during the manufacturing processes at production plants. As a precautionary measure, workers are often expected to wear exclusive production line costumes and protective gear to prevent mishaps of any kind. The age-old expectation of testing the quality of the aluminium output by braving the heat and other hazardous conditions is a gamble when employing humans for the task, as it could prove to be fatal. Furthermore, the manual approach is time-consuming. Desgrées’s research in robotic technology revealed that most AI and robotics-driven firms across the globe have been largely unsuccessful in mitigating this challenge. Although AI is extensively utilized for various processes including data mining, industries such as manufacturing are left unexplored. Mexence’s AI-powered robots proved to be disruptive and have been instrumental in changing the obsolete tradition of human dependency to carry out routine production activities.
Although the increase in adoption of automation in industrial applications has been a sigh of relief, age-old insecurities lurking in the minds of many individuals worldwide is due to the possibility of adverse effects on human employment. Unlike many in the industry, Mexence isn’t replacing the traditional human assistant but is, in fact, empowering them. “The management of a pBot fleet would require efficient team leaders, who would probably be addressed as ‘robot coaches’ in the days to come,” states Desgrées.
The Mexence Philosophy
During each deployment journey, spanning from ideation to delivery, Mexence adheres to its philosophy of ‘robotics that makes sense.’ Rather than merely being a solution provider, the firm prefers operating as a trusted partner and understanding its clients’ business needs accurately before deciding how robotics and AI can be merged to amplify the client’s capabilities. The team follows an ‘Awareness-Future-Implementation’ cycle to deploy solutions that withstand the test of time.
Mexence believes in brainstorming ideas to comprehensively understand a firm’s ambitions, and then zeroing in on a solution that could help achieve cost-effective workarounds. Desgrées considers this style of working to be more fruitful in winning the trust of clients rather than imposing a sophisticated solution that does little in catapulting a firm toward its vision.
The Path Ahead
Mexence’s innovation isn’t limited to the construction and manufacturing industries. The company aims to make complete sense of robotics and intends to utilize its robots for several noble tasks such as preservation of architectural marvels at public spaces, apart from aiding construction firms in the acceleration of painting tasks. Mexence aspires to paint the iconic Eiffel Tower, Grand Duchess Charlotte Bridge in Luxembourg, and several other historic landmarks across Europe utilizing robots to their highest potential, in order to preserve cultural heritage. As a part of its roadmap, Mexence also plans to leverage drones to paint buildings and other public spaces. Tentatively named pDrones, these sophisticated machines can communicate over a network, working in tandem with each other to efficiently complete the painting contracts within a brief span. For instance, while one machine is assigned for painting, another can continually monitor the status of available material and notify any resource requirements to the operators. These machines can together revamp a public space in an unbelievably short time period, as compared to the manual approach which would probably take a few weeks.
"Mexence prefers operating as a trusted partner and understanding clients’ needs before deciding how robotics and AI can be merged to amplify their capabilities"
Currently basking in the success of the paint robot, Mexence’s experts believe that over 80 percent of manual operations would be carried out by automated machines in the near future, including a wide variety of day-to-day tasks such as driving. “Although the world is beginning to see the rise of driverless cars, in two decades from now, the need for manual intervention will be lesser than it is today and relatively error-free,” Desgrées adds.
Desgrées foresees how human lives will be radically transformed in the days to come and continues to motivate his team to strive toward engineering robots with the potential to simplify almost everything. In his opinion, robotic solution providers shouldn’t merely restrict themselves to being problem solvers but should also strive to enhance a firm’s profitability. By introducing paint robots to the construction industry, the company hasn’t just marked the end of an antiquated manual procedure but has significantly contributed to reducing expenditures associated with employing humans. Impressively, in a brief span since its inception, Mexence has collaborated with renowned global brands such as Bouygues Construction, Vinci and Paul Wurth Geprolux, which bear testimony to the company’s rapid progress and reliability. Mexence credits this success to its team, which comprises highly qualified individuals from different regions. “The strength of our team undoubtedly lies in the young professionals with innovative ideas. Although all of us belong to different continents, we are united by the vision of designing better robotic solutions to simplify human lives,” concludes Desgrées.